When SpaceX’s Starship exploded Thursday, it was at least a learning experience, as CEO Elon Musk noted afterwards. But when it comes to Twitter—and in particular its verification system—the man seems incapable of learning anything at all.
When Musk first rolled out the Twitter Blue paid verification system last year, it had to be paused owing to a wave of impostor accounts that seriously harmed the company’s standing with advertisers. The program swiftly returned, but still with little more than phone number verification to establish that the user is who they say they are.
If that already seemed shaky, what’s happened in the past few days feels more like Twitter’s wheels are properly coming off. Apart from being Starship Day, Thursday was also when Musk finally removed “legacy” blue checks from accounts that don’t pay for the privilege. That was supposed to encourage celebrities and other former blue check holders (such as yours truly) to pony up $8 a month, but it backfired quite spectacularly.
After mere hundreds of legacy check holders decided to pay, Twitter quickly began returning blue checks to high-profile individuals who hadn’t asked for them, and who in some cases had been very public about that decision. Thereafter followed one of the most bizarre episodes in recent tech history, with everyone from Stephen King to the Auschwitz Memorial denying paying Musk, and with Weird Twitter mainstay “dril”—a notable critic of the paid verification scheme—repeatedly changing his username so as to shed the blue check that Twitter kept assigning him.
This is all mind-bendingly dumb on several levels. For a start, the uncoolness of the blue check is now firmly established, to a degree that Twitter itself implicitly confirms when it foists the mark on unwilling people as an apparent act of trolling. The company is waging war on prominent users, and it’s doing so by lying about them becoming paid subscribers. That isn’t merely obnoxious—as Irish lawyer Simon McGarr pointed out in a blog post today, Twitter’s actions may break Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, while also falling foul of U.K. rules on false endorsement.
But wait, it gets wackier because Twitter also appears to be placing gold check marks—which are supposed to be for businesses paying $1,000 a month—where they really don’t belong.
Disney used to have a TV channel called Disney Junior UK, which it shuttered in 2020, at the same time closing down the associated Twitter account. At some point between then and now, Twitter user @7virtues_ set up or renamed an account with the @DisneyJuniorUK handle, then used it to publish offensive content, including racial slurs. And this morning, they announced that their @DisneyJuniorUK account had been granted the gold check. “This isn’t actually real right. Someone fucking pinch me or something,” they wrote in a tweet that went viral. According to @7virtues_, the gold check had “just appeared out of nowhere.”
The notoriously litigious Disney quickly noticed the hubbub and complained to Twitter, leading to the bogus account’s suspension within a couple of hours—but not before the scale of Twitter’s verification car crash became painfully apparent. Twitter’s management has taken what was supposed to be a revenue generator and turned it into both a trolling tool and, owing to its clueless and capricious deployment, a massive liability.
It’s all very entertaining unless you’re a company, artist, or Holocaust memorial trying to protect your reputation.
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Users aren’t loving Snap’s new feature. After the rollout of “My AI” on Snapchat, the app has been hit with negative reviews and complaints on social media. Over the past week, 75% of reviews in U.S. app stores have been one-star, according to app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, which notes that daily reviews have multiplied by five times over the past week. TechCrunch reports that it’s a drastic fall, given that in the first quarter of this year, the Snapchat average U.S. app store review was more than three stars, and only 35% of reviews had been one-star.
India drives growth for Apple. Apple is trying to reduce its manufacturing reliance on China following COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions and tension with Taiwan, and it’s eyeing India as a way to accomplish that. The company’s flagship store opening in Mumbai last week is just the start of Apple’s ambitions in India. With its skilled labor force, access to a big smartphone market, and government support for manufacturing, CEO Tim Cook has called the market “a major focus.” Still, China controls the lion’s share of the brand’s products, and there are some hurdles with growing in India like steady access to utilities and long-pending labor reforms.
The meaning of “insider trading” could broaden. NFTs have not been defined explicitly as securities, based on the Howey Test. But former OpenSea product manager Nathaniel Chastain’s trial, where he faces charges of wire fraud and money laundering, has some thinking that could change. If Chastain is found guilty, the case could provide a precedent for prosecutors to point to in other cases of alleged NFT “front-running.” But the question of NFTs as possible securities will likely hinge on a different case, says digital asset lawyer Max Dilendorf.
—Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai’s total pay package in 2022, which makes him one of the world’s highest-paid corporate leaders
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Ex-Twitter execs suing for more than $1 million tell court that Elon Musk’s ‘X Corp’ name change doesn’t let company off the hook, by Kylie Robison
From trophy wife to hedge fund to HENRY, 7 iconic phrases Fortune invented in our 93-year history, by Rachel Ventresca
Elon Musk weighs in on campaign to block Twitter accounts that still have blue check mark after legacy purge, by Steve Mollman
A Fortune 500 firm paired workers with ChatGPT-like A.I. tools—and they were happier, by Chloe Taylor
CEO is so worried about remote workers using A.I. and doing multiple jobs he threatens to increase quotas by ‘30 to 50 times our normal production,’ by Steve Mollman
BEFORE YOU GO
Grimes lends her voice to A.I. In a tweet yesterday, singer and songwriter Grimes said she would split 50% of the royalties on any successful A.I.-generated song using her voice. She added that she has no label, no legal bindings, and the same deal would apply for any artist she collaborates with. “I think it’s cool to be fused w[ith] a machine, and I like the idea of open sourcing all art and killing copyright,” she tweeted. Her announcement comes after an A.I.-generated song featuring the voices of Drake and The Weeknd called “Heart on My Sleeve” was flagged by label owner Universal Music Group for a copyright violation and taken down from streaming platforms.
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